Both employer and employee will soon have to show they have followed statutory disciplinary and grievance procedures. But will they help or hinder HR? Compiled by Phil Boucher
Head of employee relations, Ceridian Centrefile
I think the Employment Act 2002 will help because it brings home the importance of following procedure. It will help companies to pick up issues at an early stage and implement a disciplinary policy as a phased approach - rather than letting things come to a head like many people do now. If a person or company wants to go down the grievance route, then they will now have to show a lot more patience.
At the same time, it's also good that the Act makes disciplinary procedures a statutory concern. Tribunals will now have very little sympathy for any firm that fails to follow the right procedure. I think that large companies that fail to toe the line, and consequently get an automatic unfair dismissal, will have only themselves to blame.
The Act has to be careful it doesn't penalise people who have to act swiftly when a misconduct issue occurs. It shouldn't penalise those who are trying to make decisions on the spot and act under pressure. The right balance has to be struck between common sense and procedures.
Despite this, I think the changes are positive. The big difference is that it now requires employees to follow the procedure as well. Until now there has often been an issue that employees don't think applies to them. In some cases an individual's appeal will succeed even if people haven't followed procedure - which is unfair. Now it is far more two sided; both employer and employee will have to show they have tried to solve the problems internally and followed the correct steps before a dispute gets to tribunal.
This means HR now has to ensure management and employees understand and remain within the guidelines at all times. One downside is that HR will now be more hesitant to let managers manage on their own. In the past, HR has given autonomy by publicising the policy and giving management easy guidelines to handle the processes. Now we may have to go back to being more hands on.
Much of this may involve hand-holding of managers to make sure they are managing performance in an exemplary way - and I'm certain HR will want to be involved earlier in the proceedings. This will mean more work for HR, although many